Telling the world just how electric from fullback he can be, Joey Manu guided his New Zealand Kiwis side to an authoritative win over Tonga.
Running for 404 metres and making seven tackle breaks, both he and the Kiwis let the other nations know that they are ready for the World Cup later this season.
As always, the emotion that came from both the Haka and the Sipi Tau left all fans on edge; both war cries often pull at the heartstring of rugby league fans.
Not long after the game started, however, the Kiwis would take advantage.
Jahrome Hughes, spotting the smallest of gaps, burst past two forwards, got past them and was deemed to have scored by the referee and bunker.
Tonga were struggling to assert their tone on the game and the Kiwis went through again down the left edge.
Kenny Bromwich dummied and hit a half gap that found five-eighth Dylan Brown, with Jordan Rapana backing up on his inside to extend the Kiwis lead.
The first genuine Tongan chance came from the back of a knock on as promising half Talatau Amone linked up with Kotoni Staggs – surprisingly at 5/8 – for Sione Katoa to score.
The Kiwis lead was extended with Sitili Tupouniua was penalised for a strip and Rapana’s penalty goal put them up 14-6.
Only a last-gasp cover tackle by Staggs on Rapana prevented his second try but it was the sliding knees of Tongan winger Christian Tuipolutu that would prove costly.
His actions resulted in Grant Atkins sending him to the sin bin without hesitation.
Dylan Brown was again involved in the action, this time laying on a cut-out pass for Ronaldo Mulitalo to score in the corner.
It was the kicking game of Jahrome Hughes that controlled the game all night and his pinpoint kick led to a fourth Kiwis try.
James Fisher-Harris put Isaiah Papali’i over from close range and that was all she wrote for the scorers.
Kiwi captain Jesse Bromwich says coach Michael Maguire challenged them to become an elite defensive side on the international stage.
“Madge [Michael Maguire] put a challenge to us about being the best defensive international team in the world and we went out there and really got stuck in,” Bromwich said.
“Tonga are not a small pack or a small team, it was really physical out there, but I’m really happy with the effort towards our defence.”
Tonga are on the rise and coach Dean Young knows that once the inexperienced players get more international reps in them, they will be better for the cause.
“We had nine guys make their debuts tonight so it’s exciting times for Tonga,” said Young.
“If you look at the average age of our backs they were just under 21 so they are going to learn plenty from this game and this experience and moving forward it’s exciting times for Tonga in the World Cup and years to come.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Joseph Manu (NZ)
2. Jahrome Hughes (NZ)
1. James Fisher-Harris (NZ)